The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia.
The duo were honoured for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which the Nobel Committee described as a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.
In an era of increasing authoritarianism and swirling attacks on journalists, Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov both led independent news outlets in their respective countries.
The two were recognised for “their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia” the Norwegian Nobel committee said. “They were part of a broader struggle to protect press freedoms.”
“Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time.”
“They are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions,” the committee wrote.
Ms Ressa, 58, was quoted as saying the prize shows “nothing is possible without facts,” referring to the links between democracy and freedom of expression.
She has worked to expose the “abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines.”
Her biography shows that she co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, an organisation she still heads.
“Since going live in January 2012, Rappler has become one of the country’s most popular and influential media platforms, mixing reporting with calls for social activism. Today, the site attracts an average of 40 million page views and 12 million unique visitors a month, figures that more than double during the Philippines’ election season,” the New York Times reports.
“Reporters for the organization have exposed government corruption and researched the financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest of top political figures, working tirelessly to expose President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial, violent anti drug campaign.”
Accepting this landmark, Ms Ressa said she hoped the award was a “recognition of how difficult it is to be a journalist today.”
“This is for you, Rappler,” she said, her voice breaking slightly, adding that she hopes for “energy for all of us to continue the battle for facts.”
On the other hand, Mr Muratov works under increasingly difficult conditions to defend freedom of speech in Russia.
He was one of the founders of the independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, in 1993 and has served as the newspaper’s editor-in-chief since 1995.
Novaya Gazeta “is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power,” the committee wrote. “The newspaper’s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media.”
The newspaper has continued to publish despite harassment, threats, violence and murder, according to the New York Times.
The Nobel Committee said “since the newspaper’s start, six of its journalists have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaya who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya,”
“Despite the killings and threats, editor in chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy. He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism,” the committee wrote.